The Scoop: 1989 R, directed by Rob Reiner and starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and Carrie Fisher
Tagline: Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?
Summary Capsule: Guy and gal buck the natural order of things by becoming friends first
Justin’s Rating: Two “mmm”s and five “yes!”s
Justin’s Review: As stated dozens of times elsewhere in the great big world of MRFH, romance movies are not of this reality. They all adhere to the same formula of boy meets girl, boy and girl flirt for five minutes of screen time, boy and girl swap saliva, and rub noses happily ever after. We’ve been brainwashed over the years to accept this as the normal procedure when going into a relationship, causing many people to be stunned and confused when they discover that no end credits roll after that kiss, and there’s a lot of “talking” about “us” that has to go on. This is why the suicide rate is so high – movies just don’t train us to handle relationships that factor in late night snoring, socks draped everywhere, frank discussions about PMS, an eternal ban on male scratching, and Funny Things That Are Now Taboo To Laugh At.
So, there are two types of people who will go into a romantic comedy and come away with different results. The person currently in a relationship will compare his or her dating life to what goes on in the movie, and delude themselves that their relationship is exactly that perfect. Down to the sweeping soundtrack compilation that erupts from nowhere and all. Then there’s the poor sap – Me! – who is not currently in a relationship, probably due to the federally mandated quarantine zone set around his apartment, who goes into a romantic comedy and ends up feeling like complete dog waste. It just looks so easy up on the screen. All you have to do is go about your normal life, and magically, your One True Love will bump into you through a hilarious coincidence (usually while doing laundry), and all will be made right and good thereafter. It’s so easy to become paranoid that we’re somehow fighting the natural movie order of things by defying fate and not going to the laundromat and instead staying home to play a few rounds of Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation.
This is why I adore When Harry Met Sally. I know, I know it’s got its fair share of too-popular-to-like-if-you’re-cool syndrome to it, but I defy cool altogether. WHMS (which sounds like the acronym for a hospital) is the rebellious sibling in the romantic genre family. Unlike cousin Love At First Sight, WHMS is not about some sort of magical instantaneous attraction. It’s more about that strange and scary concept of becoming best friends with someone you love (whether that happens before or after you start dating). Relationships aren’t all about kissing and flowers and serenading beneath windows at three in the morning. It has those things, but it needs to have more substance beneath it to survive. It craves conversations that don’t fall into (1) “How was your day?” and (2) “I love your freckles, I want to kiss each and every one of them.” It needs activities you can both do and enjoy together without one of you considering putting a drill bit through his or her skull out of sheer boredom. And it needs balance, where one person’s strengths can compensate for the other’s weaknesses, and vice-versa. See, I need to find someone who can compensate for my stunning ignorance of foreign policy.
Harry (Billy Crystal) is a slightly smarmy typical guy with a bit of a morbid streak. He talks like Jerry Seinfeld without the smirk, commenting on anything and everything passing through his mind. Sally (Meg Ryan) is a fickle sweetie, whose naivete is balanced out with a cool and calm center. They meet at the beginning of the film and (shockingly) don’t have much of a mutual attraction; they live in completely different worlds and have opposing mindsets. Each has their own brash way of dealing with things – Harry’s cynical and Sally’s uptight – which makes for lively conversation. One of the best speeches in this film (and there are a few) is when Sally details why her relationship broke up due to some days of the week underpants. I still laugh, loudly and full of mirth, when she says with a completely serious face, “Because of God.” One of Meg’s best lines ever.
Over time, Harry and Sally develop a working platonic relationship that ironically becomes way better than either of their dating lives. As they discover, when you don’t have to worry about impressing the other person or constantly trying to get them naked, it’s so much easier to be yourself and have a good time. From late night phone conversations regarding the intricacies of Casablanca to gleefully setting each other up on blind dates, we get a glimpse of a movie relationship that isn’t just about hugging and kissing and the high school prom.
As Harry theorizes early on, it isn’t possible for a man and a woman to be just friends… something will eventually get in the way. And true to his foreshadowing, their friendship finally comes to the ultimate test: the next level. Will being more than friends ruin what they’ve built over the years? Do we even want to see them get together romantically? It’s a tough question, but as most real life relationships go, it’s not always a clear-cut path to walk down.
Of course, all this discussion and relationship insights would be for naught if the film wasn’t drop-dead funny. Which, happily, it is. Crystal comes across as a guy you’d want to be your buddy, witty and sometimes clueless, and we don’t begrudge him happiness onscreen. He gets to show off some of his comedic talents, like talking in strange voices and carrying on a fierce debate in a low monotone staccato. Meg fortunately doesn’t go the complete ice queen route (seen in such films like The Sure Thing), which makes her much more sympathetic. Plus, she does the whole famous fake orgasm thing, which is still memorable if not as hilarious as it once was. I’m ashamed to admit our college suite once blasted up our speakers and opened the windows to our rooms during this scene, while students were having some sort of mass protest on the lawn outside our dorm.
Perhaps the only downside to this film are the interludes, where they drag out old couples to talk about their relationships. Kinda cute, mostly boring. But one of them has the Chinese version of the Bride of Frankenstein, so keep your eyes out for that.
Karaoke, Sphinxy, fake orgasms, the world’s ugliest coffee table, Pictionary madness and the lyrics to Aud Lang Sine. Or however you spell it, it’s a strange song. When Harry Met Sally – the romantic comedy for the working class. But where, oh where, is my Meg Ryan!
PoolMan’s Rating: The holy grail of romantic comedies.
PoolMan’s Review: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I don’t understand for the life of me how romantic comedies keep getting made. Particularly since the best that ever was and probably ever will be has already been done. No silly, I don’t mean Maid in Manhattan! (although that Ralph Fiennes IS a keeper) A little gem called When Harry Met Sally is done, in the bag, el finito. Let’s get J-Lo into another genre of film, or better yet, out of film entirely.
WHMS is hands down my favourite romantic comedy ever. I can remember watching it single, and I watch it periodically in my current pseudo-married state. It holds the rightmost position of my DVD shelf (Army of Darkness is the leftmost, if you’re curious). Every time I watch it, I find myself not only quoting the gags I’ve already memorized, but also picking up the ones I’ve somehow missed before. I don’t know how it works, but there’s ALWAYS something I never noticed before that springs out anew at me with repeated viewings (and gags that get me each and every time… Harry spitting the grape seeds into the window of the car always just slays me). There are so many little things in this flick that are going to make you laugh or think, you’re actually apt to spend a lot of time laughing and thinking. It sounds like a dumb thing to say, I know, but honestly, how many movies these days really do exactly that?
Flying in the face of every movie that has ever suggested that all you need to find your One True Love™ is walk around aimlessly outside in a large city, WHMS approaches the topic of love in a way that, while still highly movie-ish, is relatable. That’s its real strength right there. It’s not so outlandish to think that you could meet someone, not really care for them, live a few years of your life, and suddenly realize what you missed out on before. This is actually almost word for word how my girlfriend and I really came to know each other. We met twice a few years before we really hit it off, and both times we really didn’t like each other much. Heck, Justin and I STILL don’t like each other, how weird is that? (ah, just kidding J, you’re the other, hairier love of my life)
I also love the attention to timing and detail. One particular scene has Harry and Jess at a football game, having a conversation about Harry’s separation and pending divorce. They’re in the middle of a frank and embarrassing discussion about Harry’s wife calling a moving crew to come get her stuff, but never forget to rise up out of their seats when “The Wave” travels around the stadium and reaches them. The best part is that the conversation never misses a beat. It’s little stuff, but it’s priceless, and I’d watch it again and again. Oh wait, I already do.
Basically, it’s all right to love this movie. In a relationship? You can both reminisce about the funny quirks that started your little tryst. Female and single? You can take solace in the fact that the perfect man doesn’t have to be perfect, and may very well be at hand without you knowing it. Male and single? Well, to be honest, you’re probably watching the hockey game, but flipping over to see Billy Crystal look absolutely horrified to be in bed with Meg Ryan is worth at least one laugh before the next face off.
When Harry Met Sally is a born classic. There’s no better kind of movie than the kind you’ve seen a million times, but want to see a million more. Just remember, don’t, ahem, ‘mess’ with Mister Zero.
- The segments of married couples telling the stories of how they met are real stories that Rob Reiner collected for the film.
- Other titles considered were: Just Friends; Play Melancholy Baby; Boy Meets Girl; Words of Love; It Had To Be You; Harry, This is Sally; How They Met; Blue Moon.
- A lot of the movie has Crystal improvising with his dialog. Case in point, in the museum, the “pepper in my paprikash” speech was done entirely ad-lib. If you don’t believe me, watch Meg’s eyes as she tries to keep up with Billy’s dialog. At one point she turns to the side and looks off-camera; she’s actually looking at Rob Reiner for a little sanity, but they kept the shot because it looks like a natural reaction.
- So sex is an emotional thing? Shocking!
- Both “Harry” and “Sally” have five letters in their name, double letters, a’s as vowels, and end in “y”. Eerie.
- The orgasm sequence was filmed in New York’s world-famous Katz’s Deli.
- Harry can be seen reading Stephen King’s Misery, which would be director Rob Reiner’s next film.
- The woman who says “I’ll have what she’s having” after Sally’s faked orgasm is director Rob Reiner’s mother.
- God, remember when Pictionary was all the rage?
- The fashion in this flick is pretty trendy to the periods in which the different acts happen (late 70’s, early 80’s, late 80’s). Love the flight attendant-chic on Sally!
Harry: It was bound to happen. You live in a city of 8 million people, you’re bound to bump into your ex-wife.
Harry: Oh, but Baby Fish Mouth is sweeping the nation.
Sally: And I’m going to be 40!
Sally: Some day!
Harry: In eight years!
Sally: You can’t express every feeling you have every moment that you have them.
Harry: Repeat after me. Pepper.
Harry: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Sally: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Harry: But I would be happy to partake of your pecan pie.
Harry: I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle in your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend a day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
Sally: Well, if you must know, it was because he was very jealous, and I had these days of the week underpants.
Harry: Ehhhh! I’m sorry. I need the judge’s ruling on this. “Days of the weeks underpants”?
Sally: Yes. They had the days of the week on them, and I thought they were sort of funny. And then one day Sheldon says to me, “You never wear Sunday.” It was all suspicious. Where was Sunday? Where had I left Sunday? And I told him, and he didn’t believe me.
Sally: They don’t make Sunday.
Harry: Why not?
Sally: Because of God.
Harry: Had my dream again where I’m making love, and the Olympic judges are watching. I’d nailed the compulsaries, so this is it, the finals. I got a 9.8 from the Canadians, a perfect 10 from the Americans, and my mother, disguised as an East German judge, gave me a 5.6. Must have been the dismount.
Harry: You know, I have a theory that hieroglyphics are just an ancient comic strip about a character named Sphinxy.
Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: Its amazing. You look like a normal person but actually you are the angel of death.
Harry: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally: Which one am I?
Harry: You’re the worst kind. You’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.
Sally: Amanda mentioned you had a dark side.
Harry: That’s what drew her to me.
Sally: Your dark side?
Harry: Sure. Why? Don’t you have a dark side? I know, you’re probably one of those cheerful people who dot their “i’s” with little hearts.
Sally: I have just as much of a dark side as the next person.
Harry: Oh, really? When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.
Jess: You made a woman meow?
Harry: Right now everything is great, everyone is happy, everyone is in love and that is wonderful! But you gotta know that sooner or later you’re gonna be screaming at each other about who’s gonna get this dish. This eight dollar dish will cost you a thousand dollars in phone calls to the legal firm of That’s Mine, This Is Yours.
Harry: Please, Jess, Marie. Do me a favor, for your own good, put your name in your books right now before they get mixed up and you won’t know whose is whose. ‘Cause someday, believe it or not, you’ll go 15 rounds over who’s gonna get this coffee table. This stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale COFFEE TABLE!
Jess: I thought you liked it!
Harry: I was being nice!
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.
Harry: So I say, “What’s the matter, don’t you love me anymore?”. And she says, “I’m not sure I ever loved you”.
Jess: Man, that’s cold.
Jess: No, listen, I’m a writer. I know dialogue, and that is particularly harsh.
Harry: With whom did you have this great sex?
Sally: I’m not going to tell you that.
Harry: Fine, don’t tell me.
Sally: Shel Gordon.
Harry: Shel? Sheldon? No, no, you did not have great sex with Sheldon.
Sally: I did too.
Harry: No you didn’t. A Sheldon can do your income taxes. If you need a root canal, Sheldon’s your man. But humpin’ and pumpin’ is not Sheldon’s strong suit. It’s the name. “Do it to me Sheldon, you’re an animal Sheldon, ride me big Shel-don”. Doesn’t work.
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